North-West University (NWU) : a merger and incorporation story, 2004-2014
Prinsloo, P. J. J.
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Since the North-West University (NWU) came into being on 1 January 2004, it has more than once been embroiled in controversy. The storms that broke made for sensational headlines and riveting reading, yet also served a larger purpose. Uncomfortable and often unpleasant though they were at the time, the difficulties the NWU braved were a baptism of fire that helped forge an extremely resilient, adaptable and successful university. That side of the NWU has, however, been obscured from view at times by the more “newsworthy” events that swirled in and around it, especially on the topic of transformation. This book does not attempt to tilt the balance in the other direction by dwelling solely on the university’s strengths and triumphs while glossing over its weaknesses and failures. Nor does it seek to justify or rationalise decisions and actions that hindsight – an extraordinarily exact science – may have revealed as less than ideal. What this book does strive to do is tell the organisational story of the NWU within the context of the changing higher education landscape and its own, unique makeup. No other merging university in South Africa had two less similar merger partners. Drawn from original reports, notes and other documents pertinent to the merger, this book could be seen as the official book of record on the establishment of the NWU and its first 10 years of life, and is thus an authoritative academic resource in respect of the organisational dimension of the merger. As a predominantly scholarly work, parts of this book go into intricate detail about matters such as national education policy, the merger objectives, the negotiations leading up to the merger, and the many task teams and working groups involved in merger preparations. Laborious as such detail may seem at times, it is necessary to ensure a complete, comprehensive composite of a university in the making. There are also sections where scholarly theories are discussed at length, such as chapter 10 where the philosophy of organisational structure is explained, setting the scene for a discussion on the university’s choice of operating model. This, too, is important in ensuring a full and complete record of the university’s journey in its first 10 years. In tandem with the compilation of this publication, the NWU has published a second book on the merger, titled Forging unity: the story of the North-West University’s first 10 years. The latter, based on personal interviews with most of the key figures in the merger, has a more human, emotional character and, read in conjunction with this book of record, could be invaluable in providing further insights into the university’s merger story. The two publications undoubtedly complement each other. The story of the NWU is of course far from over. This book attempts to capture the essential building blocks of a university that is playing a growing role in educating new generations of South Africans. Time will tell how the next chapters of the NWU’s life will unfold.
- Miscellanea